I have come to set the world on fire, and I wish it were already burning!Luke 12:49
What does it mean to set the world on fire for Jesus? Does it mean that the whole world knows him? Maybe it means that the whole world loves him, or that the whole world follows him. To be on fire means to have a strong faith. Souls who are on fire for Jesus have faith that burns for the Lord, and it can’t be extinguished by any external force. Souls on fire follow Jesus closely and intensely. They go to great lengths, sometimes even changing their schedule or routine, to make Jesus their first priority. They follow him so closely that they resemble him in their thoughts and actions. In Luke 12:49 Jesus states that the world isn’t on fire yet. It wasn’t on fire during Jesus’ time, but if you take a look around, you’ll see that today the world is on fire, but not for Jesus.
The world is often on fire with violence and hate. This kind of fire breaks hearts and makes Jesus weep. The world can be on fire for secular things, like trends and pop culture. Although some of these things are harmless, they take our attention away from Jesus and prevent us from fixing our eyes on Heaven. Instead of these fires, the world should be burning with an unquenchable love for Jesus Christ.
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After Jesus said he came to set the world on fire, he said he didn’t come to establish peace, but to divide. When I read this, I stopped and let the words sink in. This isn’t the first time that Jesus startled me. I typically associate him with peace, so I was confused to hear that Jesus came to divide. It made me realize that the decision to choose to follow him is a polarizing one. It can separate us from friends, family, and loved ones, but it’s worth it. Moreover, it’s necessary for our salvation.
I don’t think Jesus exactly encourages us to distance ourselves from those who don’t follow him, but I think he mentions division to show the importance of following him. What we gain from being his disciples is greater than whatever we lose, but it still hurts to be divided from loved ones. To prevent this, we can encourage others to be disciples with us. If we’re on fire for the Lord, our sparks will fly and ignite those around us until they’re engulfed as well. As intimidating as this sounds, this is Jesus’ will. He calls us to make disciples of all nations, so we have to help those around us encounter the Lord, however that might look according to our place in life.
I realize how difficult sharing the Gospel can be. We live in a world where everyone wants to be left alone to do their own thing. But the reality is, Jesus doesn’t call us to leave people alone.
We live in a world where no one wants to be bothered, corrected, or told what to do. People tend to take things too personally or get offended too easily. They think they’re being attacked instead of loved. They think they’re being judged instead of called to holiness. I’ve seen too many people who would rather remain in sin than repent and receive God’s grace and mercy. Sometimes it’s their ignorance that prevents their conversion, which is sad, but sometimes they’re aware that they’ve fallen and their stubbornness keeps them away from God. This scenario is far worse and far more heartbreaking. These people are the ones who are likely to say:
“Leave me alone.”
“I’m not hurting anybody.”
“My body, my choice.”
“Don’t tell me what to do.”
Although it may be difficult, these are the souls who we need to fight the hardest for because they need saving the most.
Jesus himself didn’t, and still doesn’t, leave people alone. He didn’t pray, fast, and do his own thing while he let everyone else do their thing. He certainly didn’t keep his religious views to himself. Disciples have to resemble their discipler, so like Jesus, we have to reach out to others. The Great Commission isn’t a suggestion; it’s a requirement.
We can’t set the world on fire with love for Christ without letting a few sparks fly first. Jesus desires that the world be set ablaze for him, but many of us have yet to ignite our own hearts. This is where the term “lukewarm” is appropriate, and I’m sure you can relate when I say I used to have a lukewarm soul. As a “cradle Catholic,” I’ve had the advantage and disadvantage of growing up in the Church. I only consider it a disadvantage because there were times that I practiced my faith only because I “had” to. I prayed and went to Mass because I felt obligated to or because my parents expected me to. Fortunately, I fell more in love with Jesus in high school, especially when I got Confirmed. In college, my faith ignited as I was surrounded with a strong Catholic community. I’m overwhelmingly blessed to have graduated with my faith on fire, but when I look at those whose faith has been extinguished during those pivotal four or more years, my heart breaks.
Lukewarm souls know of Jesus, but they don’t have much of a relationship with him to speak of. They follow him, but not closely enough. I say this from experience, but I’m glad that my lukewarmness dissolved and was replaced by a faith on fire. It’s true that there are too many lukewarm souls out there, but it’s easy to reach them and set them ablaze. I know from experience that some don’t think holiness is possible for them. They see people with strong faith and they don’t think they can be like that. They feel disheartened from trying to grow closer to God because it feels impossible for them. This is where testimonies are powerful. In these moments, we can share our stories to save lukewarm souls. I can vividly recall a few times when someone’s story got me out of a faith slump and gave me the strength to lean on the Lord. In turn, I shared my testimony with a few friends, and they felt inspired to follow Jesus more closely. If we show people that lukewarmness isn’t ideal and can be overcome, they’ll use our testimonies to spark their fire for the Lord.
We can set the whole world on fire for Christ, and we can start with ourselves. Our souls should thirst for Jesus the way that he thirsts for us. We should yearn for his love and forsake whatever tries to separate us from it. Once we’re on fire, others will quickly catch flame from the way we enthusiastically follow the Lord. Setting the world on fire might sound like a daunting task, but it’s possible and crucial for holiness and Sainthood. Let’s make our souls burn bright for the Lord and take as many people to Heaven with us as we can.
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